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From effervescent, toe-tapping numbers to the most stirring and haunting of ballads, Raya songs are as much a part of the festivities as the spirit of forgiveness and fellowship and groaning tables heaving with food. Simply put, it ain’t Hari Raya Aidilfitri, or Hari Raya Puasa, if you don’t hear one of these songs on the radio or TV. They typically make their appearance midway through the fasting month of Ramadan—a season of contemplation and repentance—and then almost certainly after the fasting month ends, amidst the swirl of house visits and feasting.
Through the decades, Raya songs have been written and sung by some of the region’s most iconic singers and composers. Here, we bring you six favourites with different vibes and personalities, alongside their matching shows for Pesta Raya 2023.
Its title says it all—“I beg forgiveness from afar” in English. Hitting all the emo notes of the season, the late Malaysian superstar Sudirman sings about being overseas and away from family on the morning of Hari Raya Puasa. A reminder never to take your loved ones for granted.
Air Da Tohor & Potong
These two theatrical works reflect on home, family and displacement. Air Da Tohor (The Tide is Low) is a work by the descendants of families indigenous to Singapore’s southern islands.
In Potong, a foreign-born son of Singapore returns to live with his extended family members.
One of those Raya standards from the ’70s along with Sharifah Aini’s Suasana Hari Raya, the powerful pipes of these singers can be heard ringing out from homes every other hour on the first day of the festivities. Written by renowned Singapore composers Zubir Said and Yusnor Ef, this up-tempo number, driven by Sanisah’s silky vocals, sketches the events of Day One of Hari Raya—morning prayers and asking one’s elders for forgiveness, the cemetery visit to pay respects to those who have passed on, and finally, the excitement of open house visits within the extended family.
A Mesra-merising Night with Shazza & Friends
Singapore singer-songwriter Shazza performs songs by legends such as P Ramlee, Siti Nurhaliza and Afgan along with her originals.
Part of the new generation of Raya songs, this catchy number and its accompanying music video went viral when released in 2021. Malaysian girl group Dolla sing and rap about everything from seeking forgiveness among kith and kin to the excitement of dolling up in OOTDs for the perfect wefie.
JUARA MIC JUNIOR di Pesta Raya!
The young contestants of Mediacorp’s singing competition, Juara Mic Junior, take you on a journey of self-discovery as they live their dreams and celebrate the Malay language and culture through music.
The rhythms of Malay percussion instruments like the kompang and the rebana, along with Siti Nurhaliza’s mellifluous vocals, give this song its distinctive kick. This song about Lebaran, which marks the end of the fasting month, talks about honouring Raya traditions, purifying one’s intentions and receiving blessings from Allah.
Simfoni Keroncong Nusantara
This blockbuster concert by Orkestra Melayu Singapura celebrates the various styles and colours of keroncong, from its original sound in its birthplace, Jakarta, to its iterations in the rest of Nusantara.
The unconventional Raya song—a pulsating dikir barat number by the 1990s supergroup, made up entirely of percussion and call-and-response vocals. The lyrics capture the contemplative nature of the season—the end of Ramadan as the loss of a reflective period of feeling connected to God, as well as the possible loss of a loved one in the singers’ lives, making this Hari Raya particularly poignant.
Nostalgia Dikir Nusantara
Sri Teruna Jaya and Alang Ikan Duyung present a throwback to the heyday of dikir barat in ’80s and ’90s Singapore.
Malaysian singer-songwriter and style maven Hael Husaini puts his own spin on the Raya song genre with this power-pop anthem released in 2019. It expresses gratitude to Allah and talks about gathering with loved ones during the festive season, while also remembering those who have passed on.
Untuk Kau by FLQ & Balada Bayangan di Latar Langgit
Bedroom synth pop artist FLQ makes his Esplanade debut featuring songs from his most recent album, Untuk Kau.
In Balada Bayangan di Latar Langir, FLQ joins forces with other pop and soul artists like Akid Amir and Sappy Chill.
Cover illustration by Farihath Samsul.
The good vibes continue
Celebrate the icons and treasures of the Malay community in its diversity and richness through the best in theatre, dance, and music from the Nusantara.